Playing The Clock, Not The Board

Round 5 was not going to be a money round or anything like that for me, if I lose it wasn’t like I was going to play someone weaker the next week, as this was the last round.

I took a nap before the game, and completely overslept and had to rush out the door, so there was about 13 minutes less on my clock, which didn’t make too much difference to the competitive nature of the game, realistically.

This game was a case of “Dr. Jekyl and Mr Hyde”.  The first part of the game, I had achieved a solid +- advantage.  The second part of the game, I realized I had achieved the advantage on the board, and now I would try to press him on the clock as well – bad decision.

On move 18, I was fully expecting to see 18…Ne8 played, by which I would follow up with 19.e4.  He spent a long time on this move, and he had been spending lots of energy on defense as well, so I decided to press him on the clock.  When he played 18…exd, which only transposes into the line I have already pointed out, I was thrown off by the move order, and quickly and inexplicably played 19.Nxd? which I instantly regretted, but I felt “It’s okay that I just bungled my game, as I am leading on the clock 14 minutes to 9:59”

23.QxQ.  I spent a couple minutes looking at 23.Nge4 Ne5, 24.Ne4f6+ Kh8, concluding that I wasn’t really going anywhere with this.

27.Kh1? played quickly.  After the game, going over it with Alex, I immediately recognized that this was a blunder, and should have traded his good c-pawn for my weak e-pawn, and then the Nd5 will be unassailable there as well.

28.Nd4?? Effectively losing the game.  Once again, with Alex I showed right away the correct move 28.Nd2 here, as 28…f5 could be met by 29.g4 or 29.e4, and 28…Nd7 I saw right away while plugging this game in that it could be met by 29.Ne4 Ba7, 30.Nxf6+ gxf6, 31.Nxf6+ Kf8, 32.NxRe8 KxRe8, which is admittedly is tricky to judge, so perhaps this would be a mistake as well to sac, but clearly the position is worlds better after 28.Nd2 than in the game.  In the game, I had played hope-chess and visualized him playing 28…BxN, leaving him with the knight instead of the bishop.  This is still bad, but not seeing the bishop being left on the board instead of the knight is a decisive mistake.

32.Ne7?  At this point, I saw the writing on the wall with ..Be5, …Rd8-d1 possibility, so I panicked and play this move.  His 33…c6 didn’t come as a surprise to me, only to see it played first did, but I knew I wasn’t solving the position and was expecting bad things and to lose by this point.

35.Re2, I knew I was dropping the knight when I played this move, I had seen his upcoming maneuver, but felt that losing my a-pawn would also be  decisive (two pawns down).

We played a post-mortem where his son Rhett suggested 31.Re4, which I had also very briefly considered, and there followed 31…Be5, 32.Kg1 Rd7, 33.Kf1 c6, knight retreats and then he trades bishop for knight and had no trouble blitzing out a winning rook endgame against me, outclassed me there.  Actually, he considered some of my poor suggestions, and he would know right away that a position was a draw or not, and even when he conceeded that he had blown it and it was probably a draw, his son Rhett stepped in and found the killer-shot, plan, saying it’s winning and it didn’t take him any time.  I was baffled, but he could have blitz won it.  So in the endgame, I would not have been in my element as much as I though to try blitzing it out.  My element was the opening and middlegame.

I finished the game with three minutes on my clock, which may seem ironic, but I’ve learned to play as if these last couple of minutes are “unusable”.  I feel that with a time-control of 30/90, SD/30 this is a completely different game from both the competive and the artistic aspect, as I would have recaptured on d5 with the d-pawn, and it would have been far more instructional than the simple mess that it became.  I am not the same player at G/90 as at a dual-time control; I’ve always known this, but it’s clearly illustrated here.

Next year, I plan to try not to make such a mess of it on the clock, and to try to play better chess even if I lose on the clock because that’s preferable to what happened here which was _just_ playing  on the clock.  Our new night will be Wednesday’s at Smashburger’s.  I greatly prefer Tuesdays and playing at the club as well, but I’ll take what I can get.  The restaurant happened to be dead last time, and is a great backup site, but I think that going forward it will be awkward with us camping out in a burger joint where it is a business built on moving customers quickly in and out with fast-food, whereas for example Panera was more like a coffee-shop where people lounge around for sometimes long periods of time.

If anyone considers the question of “How to play G/90 delay 5” to be part of a chess improvement post, then I will share what else was/is going through my mind.  Once I saw that were down to my 14 minutes to his 10, that’s when I realized that I would have less of his time to think as well.  I do much better when I have 14 minutes and my opponent has an hour remaining because either A) I will get to think on their time, or B) They will blitz me and blunder.  In our game’s scenario, I knew I wasn’t going to have his time to think, which is brilliant for Black because the lack of time should nearly always ensure that White, who overwhelmingly often will get a +/- advantage at G/90, will now not have enough time to think, and therefore both players playing sloppy will almost ensure the draw with one caveat; the caveat is that both players play at least competently to the naked eye.

For me, the general competency late in the game in time-pressure goes out the window as I either play brilliantly or horribly.  Mark, by  comparison, is the perfect example of an inveterate time-trouble player drawing many of his games because of the scenario that I described above.  For me, any dual-time control would be welcome, as would the 30 second increment.  At least in the 30 second increment I could blitz some moves, and slow down for key moves, such as in this game where I should have played Nxc7, and that was my first instinct (and should have made the draw rather easy), but my lack of time caused me to play that move quickly and decide on Kh1 instead.  It’s not that I didn’t “see” the right move, or calculate the right move, it’s that the time-pressure usually affects judgment badly, unless you are in a position where you just know you are winning or have easy winning chances, and your play is more straight-forward than the other guy’s play.

Actually, my thinking on that play/move was “If we trade off c-pawn and e-pawn, then his bishop will have more scope, and knights (my knight) like a clogged up position with lots of pawns”  It’s not that I can’t calculate quickly or make a judgment-call on a position in time-pressure, it’s that the judgment is often patently silly, and I have a lot of complex throughts and variations going through my head.  Alex showed me one his games where DuWayne dropped a piece and Alex won, and for instance I showed him that he could choose not to take the piece and I blitzed out a win/mate for him with an intentional queen then knight sac.

Some people, Alex to take an example, will tell me that I need to “learn to move faster”.  I notice that a lot of players know themselves quite well and will see something instantly or not at all.  I am at the opposite end of that spectrum and will tend to see everything if given enough time, so that I tend to not “know my own mind” the way many other players will when it comes to moving quickly.  Even if I feel that I do know what I want to do on most moves, chess is about what you do on the moves where you don’t know.

Weird comment:  The WordPress spell-checker incorrectly thinks that judgment should be spelled as judgement, which is wrong if you look it up.  I’ve always been a good speller.  This is what I mean by relying on computers for judgment!  BTW, most of my calls as “tech support” these days are where I get consulted because of a computer or system error, and have to be the one to find some work-around to solve the customer’s issue.


4 thoughts on “Playing The Clock, Not The Board

  1. Yeah, 19. exd5 would really press him, also after e3-e4 your pawn would look much better than standing on e3 in the game. Still, it is strange how it goes from OK after queens exchange to lost in a few moves.
    I learned not to press my higher rated opponent on the clock and not rely on that at all.
    Yeah, he will be in the time trouble and then having a few minutes left will start to play fast making the same quality moves. And you will spend more and more time and then you will be the one who is in the time trouble. So I just try to play good moves and hope for the best.

  2. Great advice! Yes, sooner or later they will just blitz their rating and it will get tough to play then in any event, unless I somehow gain a big advantage on the board.

    I pushed for the 10 second delay on Facebook, but I can see that that would never go through now. Few people want to give up their scientific way of trying to beat me on the clock, but particularly not players who are trying to keep their 1900+ ratings!

    The second part of this game, where I totally blow it, was based on my new found fear that I cannot cope well with the 5 second delay. Most days I don’t even have the energy for a 5 second time-scramble, which is 2 seconds of thought and 3 seconds of moving, and hope that doesn’t take 5.1 = 6 seconds.

  3. We have 30 seconds increment in one club and 10 seconds in another, 10 seconds is a minimum I think. 5 seconds is good for rapid play.
    I played tonight. It was a guy to whom I lost two months ago with Black, rated 100 higher.
    I had White, he played Pirc. I exchanged a lot of pieces and went for an endgame B+N vs his two bishops. I don’t think he had much, he over-pressed and I managed to win a pawn, but then lost two and we ended up with him having 2B + P and me – B+N. I asked TD if it’s a draw if I’ll give up a knight for a pawn and TD wasn’t sure. Eventually I got annoyed with his attempts to win, said: “Let’s play” and gave up a knight for pawn.
    He continued to play and I told him that I will simply give checks with the bishop.
    We played a few moves, my king drifted to the center and he agreed to a draw. Funny.

  4. That’s exactly the game everybody wants to see! The rest of us who are struggling need to see more endgames, since we don’t see many of them at our quicker time-controls. Plus, you can get human instead of computer feedback.

    Sounds like his game plan all along was to win from a drawn position. The draw result benefited you, nice going! 🙂

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